Legalised betting in India: have we moved a step closer?

The prospect of betting in cricket becoming a legalised activity in the near future in India appears to have received a boost, with the Law commission submitting a recommendation to the government about the issue. As it stands currently, betting on sports, including cricket, is not a legal activity in India. As various reports have shown, however, it is still rampant within the country.

The impact this has is significant. With strict prohibitions in place, the report found, there have been huge increases in illegal gambling. This subsequently creates significantly more black money, in turn contributing to corruption. Obviously, corruption has been the point of significant discussion in recent times in the cricketing world. Potentially, the legalisation of gambling in the country would contribute to a reduction in the circulation of black money, and subsequently have a positive impact on the attempts to stamp out corruption in cricket.

The report submitted by the Law Commission - titled ‘Legal framework: Gambling and sports betting including cricket in India’ - stated that stopping gambling activities in its entirety is an impossible task. Legalising them and subsequently being able to regulate them, as a result, is the ‘only viable option’, according to the report. 

The report made numerous suggestions about just how the regulation of gambling should work. It suggested that there should be restrictions on the maximum amount which can be bet in a single transaction, as well as a cap on how much can be bet over the course of a period of time, such as monthly or annually.

Furthermore, the report posited that gambling in India should be classified into ‘proper gambling’ and ‘small gambling’. The difference between these two, as the names suggest, is that proper gambling would involve higher stakes, whereas small gambling would be more limited in the amounts bet. The reason behind this is that it would allow the government to place restrictions on who can be involved in ‘proper gambling’. Under the recommendations, only individuals earning a certain amount of income would be able to engage in this higher stakes form of gambling, with others required to stick to small gambling. Presumably, the idea behind this is to prevent individuals from gambling more than they can afford.

As for specifically how it would work, the report suggested that transactions made under a system of legalised gambling should be cashless. Likewise, there would be the compulsory application of PAN (Permanent Account Number), as well as Aadhaar. This, it is believed, would help to prevent money laundering within the system.

As it stands, various other countries have legalised gambling. These include Australia and New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom, all of whom obviously have significant investment in cricket. The report by the Law Commission cited the examples of these countries, noting the significant revenues that they are able to earn as a result. 

What is good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander though, and one of the members of the Law Commission who helped to prepare to the report provided an alternative opinion on the matter. Professor S Sivakumar believed that the social stigma against gambling which exists in India makes legalising it an inappropriate solution. Furthermore, he stated the ‘present condition in the country is not ripe for legalising betting in sports’, pointing to widespread poverty and the country’s socio-economic condition as reasons why the change should not be made.

As with most topics of discussion, there are valid points on both sides of the argument. The recommendations outlined in the report, however, appear to suggest that there is a reasonable chance that gambling will become legalised in the country at some point in the near future. No doubt that would have various impacts, both good and bad, but for cricket and punting lovers, the change would be an overwhelmingly positive one.